Aléna Tran librarian based in Calgary, AB, Canada


How do your slow Sundays begin? What kind of breakfast or maybe brunch do you prepare? 

I love routine, I really do. At least as a concept. But I also have what seems to be an inherited knack for doing precisely what I want - an unimpressive lack of self-discipline - while the more practical demands of life retreat into some dark recess of my mind. Any presence of routine is coincidental. The absence of it is filled, however, by an innate desire to live well, to live slow. It's encoded in my double helix. That doesn't mean I never flit around my home in a frenzy when I should have left for church ages ago - the lack of any internal clock makes sure of that. But when I’m late, it's likely because I began daydreaming while whisking matcha in my kitchen; perhaps I tried to stretch out the minutes on a morning walk; I kept hugging my husband over and over as though I might not see him again after we say goodbye; I needed to find just the right playlist or sermon to listen to while applying my makeup. So my Sundays are rarely exactly the same. But there is always an element of delight; a small dose of joy in the morning is my substitute for coffee.

There is one thing that is usually the same when I start the day by myself, because of my long list of food intolerances: brunch is always a smoothie.

I read that you sometimes work on Sundays, but dream a little, if you had a whole free Sunday and could do whatever you want. How would your Sunday look like?

It would begin with waking to the warmth of my husband still next to me. He is a youth pastor at the church we attend, which means he is usually up before me and has to leave early in order to have everything ready for the youth service. So in my dream-world he is there beside me, bleary-eyed and rumple-haired and smiling, asking if I want bacon for breakfast. I put on music, like I always do (a sort of routine for me, but it could be melancholy folk, could be Broadway hits... you never know) and open the blinds to let the morning light in. Morning light is magic. We probably still go to church, but he's sitting next to me, and we steal glances and grins like children. After the service we pack a picnic lunch (with sheep cheese and crispy apple chips and peach lavender jam) and make our way to a park, St. Patrick's Island most likely. Later we meet up with my family for dinner or make a gourmet pizza from scratch (one of our favourite slow meal traditions). An after-supper ice cream or bubble tea run is almost certainly involved. My peculiar passion for both is well known even among acquaintances. We return home a little tired and giddy. He's warm and content but I'm freezing from the cold dessert even though it's the middle of summer. And I declare that the only solution is a long, hot soak in the bath.

I feel blessed to say that we do experience the odd Sunday like this, though few and far between. And on those days I feel almost guilty to have a piece of heaven on earth.

You cherish every free moment you have and try to spend them thoughtfully. Could you tell us in more detail about your breaks from the busyness of the day?

Mental breaks are my bread and butter. Physical breaks are all well and good, but if I cannot have moments where there is nothing for my mind to do but retreat into itself, reflecting on any particularly moving words and images and sounds it collected, and breathing life into them until I see them pulse with life and colour... if I cannot have those moments, I forget who I am and what I am doing and why. I find myself devoid of clarity and energy. And yet I am just as tempted as the next person to spend my entire coffee break staring at my phone. But I am acutely aware of how vital slow-moments are to my well being, and can usually resist that temptation. Instead I take myself outside to wander aimlessly in the sunshine, brew some loose leaf tea, or lose myself in a book of poetry. When I return to work I no longer walk on the carpet, but on clouds; I float through my tasks and feel as though nothing can touch me, hungover with aesthetic delight. Daydreams return me to my original sense of things. I feel lucky to work at a library, where even on a busy day I can sneak a glimpse into a lyrical novel and find myself once again on the clouds.

As an avid traveler, could you tell me about the most memorable Sunday you had on your trips?

It is hard to choose just one - I had the opportunity to travel overseas every year as I grew up. A myriad of images and feelings and memories are swirling through my mind as I write this. For me, what is ‘adventurous’ is different from what is important. I have had many adventures, but other travelers have had far more exciting ones. Instead I luxuriate in little moments, in things that made me feel something. Like the excitement of waking up early to play with my sister in my cousin's backyard in Ireland, where everything was green and wet and cold and cows stared at us on the other side of the fence. Or watching willow branches skim glassy canals as we cycled the streets of Edam. One of my favourites, perhaps because it is so fresh in my mind, is from last year when I traveled back to Kauai with my family and my husband. The two of us had missed our evening bus back to Princeville and were killing time waiting for the next one. The small seaside town we found ourselves in was so quiet. We walked over to the ocean, kicked off our shoes and played in the shoreline waves. We found a small coconut - or a large seed, I can't quite remember - in the sand. We picked it up and held it close between us, and drunk on young love and the giddiness of being in paradise, began to breathlessly talk about how the seed represented our marriage and gave it a sort of blessing or benediction. Then we tossed it out into the salty spray, hoping it would find its way to another island to become embedded in the ground and grow. That moment somehow felt really important, and I haven't forgotten it.

Photography: Aléna Tran @allyctran, Tara Zahn @tarazahn (8)